Suspected Abu Sayyaf Jihadist terrorists kidnapped three fishermen in the southern Philippines and called their employer to demand ransom.
Boat captain Renato Panisales and two crewmen were fishing off southern Sulu province Saturday when Abu Sayyaf gunmen approached on a motorboat and abducted them at gunpoint. The terrorists called the captives’ fishing company in nearby Zamboanga city on Sunday to demand ransom.
In a separate kidnapping, three Abu Sayyaf gunmen seized restaurant caretaker Rolando dela Cruz on Monday in Lamitan town on Basilan island near Sulu. They fled aboard a jeep, which the terrorists later burned.
Army troops and police pursued the kidnappers, who were pressured into abandoning Cruz near a remote village in Basilan’s Tuburan town late Monday. Government forces handed the victim back to Lamitan town officials.
Cruz’s kidnappers were believed to be led by Abu Sayyaf commander Nurhassan Jamiri, who has been blamed for kidnappings, bombings and beheadings in predominantly Muslim Basilan.
Al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf, notorious for bombings, kidnappings for ransom and beheadings, is blacklisted by Washington as a terrorist organization. U.S.-backed offensives have taken out several of its top leaders and hindered its ability to launch bombings and other attacks.
A recent government threat assessment report said the 410 remaining Abu Sayyaf fighters, who remain without a central leader, have been hounded by funding problems, forcing them to kidnap even poor victims to get ransom.
The new kidnappings and a recent deadly bombing in Sulu indicate the danger posed by the terrorists despite their many battle setbacks and underscore the difficulty of fighting terrorism.
Intelligence reports show the kidnappers and the fishermen were moving about in Sulu’s coastal town of Patikul, where the Abu Sayyaf has mountain strongholds.
Patikul officials were trying to establish contact with the kidnappers to negotiate because a rescue attempt might danger the hostages.
The militants killed at least six hostages whose families failed to pay ransom immediately last year, according to the government report.
At their strongest, the Abu Sayyaf seized 21 people, mostly European tourists, from the Malaysian resort of Sipadan in 2000, and abducted three Americans and 17 Filipinos from the Philippines’ Dos Palmas resort the following year.
The Sipadan hostages were freed, reportedly for huge ransoms. One of the three American hostages from Dos Palmas was beheaded, while a second was killed during an army rescue attempt. The third American was wounded but freed in the army rescue operation.